Felix Walchshöfer on Challenge Roth
Challenge Roth is not only a 32Gi sponsored event, it is one of the foremost distance triathlons in the world! The way the entire community and surrounding area in Germany get involved is incredible. With big participation numbers, even bigger spectator numbers, and an entire weekend of festivities, this is more than just a triathlon. Hear from Challenge Roth CEO Felix Walchshöfer, on this episode of 32Gi Sports Nutrition.
Welcome to this week’s addition of 32Gi's Sports Nutrition. I’m Mr Active, David Katz. It’s a great pleasure to welcome our guest onto the show this week. Mark Wolff steps aside, but he’s getting ready for the event we’re speaking about today and it’s; as I said a great pleasure to welcome Felix Walchshöfer from Germany who is putting on, he’s the CEO of Challenge Roth. He’s been involved in, in great numbers and responsibilities with the Challenge Family, but Roth now firmly his main portfolio. So Felix first of all thank you very much for joining us on the podcast.
FW: No worries thank you very much.
DK: Well Felix we are just over a week away from Challenge Roth, this is one of the pinnacle triathlon and endurance triathlon events around the world. You must be a really busy man at the moment?
FW: Yeah at the moment it’s not a lot of sleep time or down time, it’s a lot going on. It’s a lot going on but it’s for us best week in the year and we really, really looking forward to it.
DK: Felix just going back a little bit in your relationship with the Challenge Family and with the Challenge Roth how did that relationship come about?
Keeping Challenge in the family
FW: In the year 2000 my father, who used to be a race director and CEO here in Roth, decided to split with IronMan. Just because the demands of IronMan were stupid.
So they demanded…a one loop bike course, a mass start in the channel…and other things. We decided it’s not in the best interest for our race and for our communities anymore to work with IronMan and be a licensee.
So we decided to create our own brand and work even stronger now with the communities and the county of Roth. We have then asked the population to put in names for the race, how the race should be named. There was a big public voting involved via the newspapers, and this is how then the name Challenge came about.
Then in 2002 we started with the first ever Challenge here in Roth. After a 14 years of IronMan history and another five years of independent racing. This year it’s our 15th anniversary Roth has grown into the by far biggest long distance race in the world.
This year we’re going to see 3400 single competitor’s and 600 relay teams. Last year we had 260 000 spectators, which makes it the biggest one day event in the state of Bavaria. We have an expo of over 4000 square metres, 6000 volunteers.
So it has grown massively and just because the whole community, the county, the politicians, everyone is fully on board. It’s absolutely enthusiastic about the athletes, especially the international athletes that are coming. 17 nations are being welcomed to Roth this year. It’s grown into a massive, massive event.
By the year 2005 we decided to take that concept worldwide and create the Challenge Family, which we have now run for 10 years and there are now more than 40 races now worldwide alongside the Mother race in Roth.
260 000 spectators get quite a show
DK: Totally amazing to see how Challenge has grown. I mean IronMan is still a massive event, but Challenge has found a fantastic place on the triathlon sort of calendar. Events all around the world, places like Vietnam and you going to the most amazing locations.
But coming back to Roth I mean you mentioned that split and I think part of what Roth is about and people that haven’t been they won’t really know but we do here is. It’s about the crowd it’s about that support you get. I don’t think there’s any other triathlon in the world, I mean you guys are pulling bigger numbers and MotoGP races in Spain, which is phenomenal.
FW: Absolutely I think it really comes down to the decision of my father to concentrate here on the communities. On the benefit of the county and creating a whole festival week. So we don’t only offer the Challenge race on the Sunday.
We have a junior Challenge, we have a challenge for all which a sprint distant. We have a night run, we have a bambini run for kids, we have Challenge woman run. We have two huge Rock concerts on Friday and Saturday each, 10 000 people attending.
So we have created such a big festival week for everyone. For our locals, for the friends and family members of the athletes that are coming with them, for the athletes themselves. That it’s just an amazing atmosphere it’s like doing Roth it’s like a Woodstock feeling.
A great welcome to the Roth family
In Roth we have 24 hotel beds. So we can’t cater for the athletes. So a lot of the international athletes are in home stay families. More than 1000 Germans open up their homes and say, “Hey welcome to our home we don’t charge you anything, we’re just pleased to welcome you as our guest and our friend.” So also the county here is a very well-travelled because many of them are visiting their triathlon friends all around the world.
We have huge camp grounds that we organise as Challenge, we have that Woodstock feeling where all of the teams, triathlon teams in Germany come and they camp. It’s an amazing triathlon feeling and we see that spirit.
Roth is a very small town so all the shops are placing banners about Challenge, posters, international flags in their windows. So the athletes coming here really get a huge sense about what triathlon is about and about how much the community here embraces the Challenge. As I said before we’ve over 6000 volunteers on race day which is absolutely amazing.
DK: Now Felix there’s something about Europe and events in Europe. There are fantastic events all over the world. In South Africa I mean between trail running, road running and mountain biking we’ve got some of the best. we know that.
But from a crowd perspective from a supportive perspective there is nothing like doing an event in Europe. What do you think it is that brings Europeans to these events. I mean we’ve got the Tour de France on at the moment the crowds we see there is phenomenal.
What makes European events appealing to fans
FW: It’s quite funny but it’s not about the Tour de France because our world famous Solar Hill that features about 50 000 spectators every year, it’s like a Tour de France experience for our athletes.
I think it’s, it’s the mixture that we have. We have world class sport with the best athletes competing together with astonishing athletes. Like sister Madonna three years ago with 84 years trying to finish. You know that inspires people to come in to watch.
So it’s not about only the Pro’s but it’s about everyone coming with their personal stories. The people here in the region are really, really interested in giving those stories. In helping the people to achieve their goals. So it is not only about the sport but every village. Every year features like Octoberfest to welcome the athletes on the hot spots.
So it’s also a gathering point for the people the biggest day in our yearly calendar. It’s the biggest festivity where the whole county is involved and not just this community or this community or this city or this city.
So it’s a huge get together for our people here, together with so many international. If we here on in a beautiful countryside we don’t get too much big events. That’s by far the biggest one so everyone just wants to join in.
Challenge Roth and 32Gi
DK: I mean over the years you’ve attracted some of the biggest athletes as well. Chris McCormack, of course Andreas Raelert that’s got that record of 7:41.33, which is phenomenally fast. Chrissy Wellington’s gone very fast in the ladies race. But talk to me more about this relationship with 32Gi and how that came about?
FW: We were very, very happy when 32Gi approached us. Mark came over and he has built a brilliant, brilliant team here in Germany. But we have worked together with another project over all the years. So we know each other very, very well.
The products are very, very good it’s innovative, it’s new. Mark takes a lot a lot of attention to detail. He goes on Facebook discusses things with the athletes directly. So it’s a wonderful product and wonderful people behind the product that fit so well for it.
Because we’re all about the customer experience, the relations to our customer and friends. 32Gi does exactly the same thing, this was why we were so happy about the relationship when we began to work together.
The true essence of Challenge Roth
DK: Now Felix you’ve been talking about the event, people have an idea of Roth. I don’t think you truly have an idea until you get there, it’s like having children and becoming a parent. You can hear about it, until it actually happens to you, you don’t really know.
I mean we see the awards that Roth wins. But if there was something that you could say to someone. They sitting now they looking at the calendar, they going I wanna go race somewhere in the world. Why would you say they should choose Challenge Roth?
FW: I think you named it. It’s hard to describe and I can try and describe it. But you will never get it until you here. Because it’s so special it’s so emotional for everyone, that you really, really should come and see the event.
It’s a fast one, it’s a fun one, it’s a very inclusive event. This year we have more than 50 athletes with disabilities racing here in Roth. It’s magical, it’s absolutely magical with the crowds.
With our organisation team that I’m so proud of. With all the volunteers that gave up two weeks to volunteer just because they love the event they feel it as their event.
It’s not the event of Felix Walchshöfer and his family. It’s the county’s event everyone is really, really proud of and put so much time and effort in it to make it.
So it’s very hard to describe, people should come and see. But also we will feature an English and German livestream on race day; between 6:30 and 11 o’clock PM. With the final and the great firework display. So if you have time have a look online. I think you’ll be able to understand what it’s really all about if you see those pictures on race day.
Get nutritional tips here
DK: Well Sunday the 17th of July it’s just around the corner, it is of course a Full. The website if you wanna find out more about the entire Challenge family is challenge-family.com. I’ll put that link up in the show notes, you can go under Challenge Roth click through. You can get a lot more information about that event alone. So some really exciting times.
Also if you want to find out more nutrition and what you need to do nutrition wise around a Challenge event. Mark Wolff and I did a podcast a few weeks ago. I’ll put that up for you in the show notes as well. But from Felix, Felix thank you very much, all the best for this year’s event and we’re looking forward to following it.
FW: Thank you very much.
DK: From myself David Katz, Mr Active on 32Gi Sports Nutrition I’ll catch up with you again next week.